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Vaccines Cause Autism (and Other Lies)

Polio coronavirus
Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered and developed the first successful inactivated polio vaccine.
Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered and developed the first successful inactivated polio vaccine.

In light of recent outbreaks of measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses, and the refusal of anti-vaccination advocates to acknowledge the problem, I thought it was past time for this post.

Dear parents,

You are being lied to. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk.

They say that measles isn’t a deadly disease.
But it is.

They say that chickenpox isn’t that big of a deal.
But it can be.

They say that the flu isn’t dangerous.
But it is.

They say that whooping cough isn’t so bad for kids to get.
But it is.

They say that vaccines aren’t that effective at preventing disease.
But three million children’s lives are saved every year by vaccination, and two million die every year from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

They say that “natural infection” is better than vaccination.
But they’re wrong.

They say that vaccines haven’t been rigorously tested for safety.
But vaccines are subjected to a higher level of scrutiny than any other medicine. For example, this study tested the safety and effectiveness of the pneumococcal vaccine in more than 37,868 children.

They will say that doctors won’t admit there are any side effects to vaccines.
But the side effects are well known, and except in very rare cases quite mild.

People who choose not to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases are putting not only their own children at risk, but also other people’s children.

They say that the MMR vaccine causes autism.
It doesn’t. (The question of whether vaccines cause autism has been investigated in study after study, and they all show overwhelming evidence that they don’t.)



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They say that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism.
It doesn’t, and it hasn’t been in most vaccines since 2001 anyway.

They say that the aluminum in vaccines (an adjuvant, or component of the vaccine designed to enhance the body’s immune response) is harmful to children.
But children consume more aluminum in natural breast milk than they do in vaccines, and far higher levels of aluminum are needed to cause harm.

They say that the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (and/or the “vaccine court”) proves that vaccines are harmful.
It doesn’t.

They say that the normal vaccine schedule is too difficult for a child’s immune system to cope with.
It isn’t.

They say that if other people’s children are vaccinated, there’s no need for their children to get vaccinated.

This is one of the most despicable arguments I’ve ever heard. First of all, vaccines aren’t always 100% effective, so it is possible for a vaccinated child to still become infected if exposed to a disease. Worse, there are some people who can’t receive vaccinations, because they are immune deficient, or because they are allergic to some component. Those people depend upon herd immunity to protect them. People who choose not to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases are putting not only their own children at risk, but also other people’s children.

Despite what the anti-vaccine community is telling you, you don’t need to be afraid of the vaccines. You should instead be afraid of what happens without them.

They say that ‘natural’, ‘alternative’ remedies are better than science-based medicine.
They aren’t.

The truth is that vaccines are one of our greatest public health achievements, and one of the most important things you can do to protect your child.

I can predict exactly the sort of response I will be getting from the anti-vaccine activists. Because they can’t argue effectively against the overwhelming scientific evidence about vaccines, they will say that I work for Big Pharma. (I don’t and never have). They will say that I’m not a scientist (I am), and that I’m an “Agent 666” (I don’t know what that is, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not one).

None of these things are true, but they are the reflexive response by the anti-vaccine activists because they have no facts to back up their position. On some level, deep down, they must understand this, and are afraid of the implications, so they attack the messenger.

Why are they lying to you? Some are doing it for profit, trying to sell their alternative remedies by making you afraid of science-based medicine. I’m sure that many others within the anti-vaccine movement have genuinely good intentions, and do honestly believe that vaccines are harmful. But as a certain astrophysicist recently said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it”. In the case of vaccine truthers, this is not a good thing. Good intentions will not prevent microbes from infecting and harming people, and the message that vaccines are dangerous is having dire consequences. There are outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses now throughout the United States because of unvaccinated children.

In only one respect is my message the same as the anti-vaccine activists: Educate yourself. But while they mean “Read all these websites that support our position”, I suggest you should learn what the scientific community says. Learn how the immune system works. Go read about the history of disease before vaccines, and talk to older people who grew up when polio, measles, and other diseases couldn’t be prevented. Go read about how vaccines are developed, and how they work. Read about Andrew Wakefield, and how his paper that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been withdrawn, and his medical license has been revoked. Read the numerous, huge studies that have explicitly examined whether autism is caused by the vaccine…and found nothing. (While you’re at it, read about the ongoing research to determine what IS the cause—or causes —of autism, which is not helped by people continuing to insist that vaccines cause it).

That may seem like a lot of work, and scientific papers can seem intimidating to read. But reading scientific articles is a skill that can be mastered. Here’s a great resource for evaluating medical information on the internet, and I wrote a guide for non-scientists on how to read and understand the scientific literature. You owe it to your children, and to yourself, to thoroughly investigate the issue. Don’t rely on what some stranger on the internet says (not even me!). Read the scientific studies that I linked to in this post for yourself, and talk to your pediatricians. Despite what the anti-vaccine community is telling you, you don’t need to be afraid of the vaccines. You should instead be afraid of what happens without them.

This article originally appeared at Violent Metaphors. Follow Jennifer Raff on Twitter.

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  1. Definitely worth repeating over and over. Thank you for the good, solid science and all the links. A great post.

  2. Pneumonia, Meningitis Evolving To Evade Vaccines

    (Excerpts): “…these life-threatening pathogens are capable of evolving rapidly and developing genetic decoys that serve to disguise them from even the most powerful drugs………..Bowden found that the pathogen switched genetic material with other bacteria, but predominantly for the part of the genome responsible for making the cell coating, which is the area targeted by the vaccine.”…

    WHOOPING COUGH-CDC admits whooping cough vaccine causing mutation: Rapid Increase in Pertactin-deficient Bordetella pertussis Isolates, Australia “This pattern is consistent with continuing evolution of B. pertussis in response to vaccine selection pressure

    MUMPS-UGA researcher developing new vaccine to fight resurging mumps virus

    “The virus is always evolving and mutating, and new viruses will emerge,” He said. “It’s only a matter of time until the old vaccine we have doesn’t work.” The current vaccine is based on a specific genotype of the mumps virus called genotype A. However, the 2006 and 2010 mumps outbreaks were caused by another strain, genotype G.

    Even more troubling is that most of the people who contracted mumps during the 2006 and 2010 outbreaks had received the recommended two-dose vaccination in their early childhood, meaning that the virus was spreading even among the vaccinated population

    MEASLES-Measles incidence rate and a phylogenetic study of contemporary genotype H1 measles strains in China: is an improved measles vaccine needed?

    Antigenic ratios testing revealed that the antigenic relatedness between wild-type measles viruses and existing vaccine strains was notably low. These data suggest that the increased incidence of measles in Jilin Province may be attributed to the antigenic drift between wild-type and vaccine strains. Our findings strengthen the recommendation of supplemental immunization with existing vaccines and also strongly suggest a need for developing new vaccines to better control measles virus outbreaks…

    INFLUENZA-Vaccination and antigenic drift in influenza
    (Excerpt): “…antigenic drift has a clear implication for devising vaccination strategies: that vaccinating too many people can have negative consequences.”

    “….in seasons when high numbers of vaccines are administered, …we should expect the emergence of immune-escape variants since the evolutionary pressure favoring them is strong. The case can be made that monitoring efforts should be strengthened during these seasons.”

    (Excerpt)….Influenza vaccines provoke creation of antibodies that target a part of the hemagglutinin (HA) protein known as the antigenic site.)…viruses can evolve into a slightly changed strain when it comes across such antibodies. This novel strain can then spread to non-vaccinated individuals. These findings offer new insight into the mechanism of how selection pressure as a result of vaccination could contribute to the virus evolving into a more infectious strain by generating better-binding HA proteins..

  3. The genetic basis for interindividual immune response variation to measles vaccine: new understanding and new vaccine approaches

    The live-attenuated measles vaccine is effective, but measles outbreaks still occur in vaccinated populations.This review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of measles vaccine immunogenetics relative to the perspective of developing better measles vaccines.
    Although effective, the current live-attenuated measles vaccines have limitations. Vaccine failure (i.e., the failure for the individual to either mount or sustain a protective immune response) occurs despite the receipt of two doses of vaccine [6–13,201]. Measles elimination has failed primarily due to failure to vaccinate, but also in part due to vaccine failure, allowing the accumulation of susceptible individuals and the occurrence of outbreaks when exposure occurs [9–11,14,15]. As a result, even in highly vaccinated populations, substantial proportions of those infected in an outbreak will have been previously vaccinated [9,12–14,16]… need for research on determinants of measles vaccine response, and the development of improved measles vaccines.

    However, measles eradication is unlikely as population immunity of 96–98% is required to prevent persisting measles endemicity [7,8,27,201]. In a recent study of measles-vaccine efficacy from 1960 to 2010, median efficacy was only 94% [28]. While the current measles vaccine used in the USA and many other countries is safe and effective, paradoxically in the unique case of measles, it appears to insufficiently induce herd immunity in the population. This relates to a combination of factors including: higher than observed rates of primary and secondary vaccine failure in clinical practice versus that seen in clinical trials

  4. I love the idea of putting man made things into my body to prevent other man made things while they make lots of money.

  5. The measles virus is natural. Many of the ingredients in vaccines are also natural. Your own body is making formaldehyde naturally as part of metabolism. Plants do, too. There is more formaldehyde in you or in a pear than in a vaccine. Naturally.

  6. “Measles elimination has failed primarily due to failure to vaccinate”

    So, while the researchers figure out even better vaccines, let’s all do the sensible thing and tackle the primary cause for measles outbreaks – the failure to vaccinate.

  7. Well Ione, nobody claims that vaccines are perfect…it’s just that they are so much better than the alternative (disabling diseases)

  8. The primary cause of any “outbreak” is having an infected person transfer the infection to another person.

    Vaccinations may indeed be an important 2nd step in stopping the spread of a full strength infection, but staying home and keeping it to themselves is the first step.

    The biggest flaw with being vaccinated is that it gives people a false sense of safety in believing that what they pass along isn’t strong enough to make someone else ill.

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